Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Funnies (UK)

There's nothing in London quite like a cuppa (British slang for a cup of tea).This pour is for all of you and shows Buckingham Palace, where we gathered with so many others last Friday in London to witness the changing of the guard. Oddly enough, the music played was not traditional marching music or even British, instead we heard American standards from the Great American Songbook, go figure. And, there were no bagpipes that we heard.

The Great American Songbook is the loosely defined canon of significant 20th-century American jazz standards, popular songs, and show tunes.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
We're still touring in Ireland

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Across the Pond

That's where we've been touring since we flew from Boston to London on October 17. After a few days there, we flew to Dublin for 2 days and then we've been on a bus tour around various parts of Ireland. Because of the schedule, there hasn't been a lot of any time for blogging as evenings our plan is to get a good night's rest for the next day's activities. Nevertheless, I wanted to post a short update even though it's after 10 pm tonight and past bedtime 😴
From top: Westminster Abbey, London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral
Anyone who has ever travelled with a tour group well knows that there is little time to just do nothing as there's a daily itinerary. On our tour, breakfast is early between 7 and 8 am (earlier than when home) and has been served in the hotels. Luggage has to be set out beforehand to be transferred to the tour bus for transfer to the next hotel. After breakfast, it's time to gather together and board the bus or follow the guide for a city tour or other activity. Most days, these events usually go until 4 and 5 pm.
From top: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Changing of Guard, Buckingham Palace
We spent 3 days in London not nearly enough time because there is so much to see in this city. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit any of the museums or galleries, hopefully on a future trip. A couple of highlights for our NH group was touring the Tower of London, a very gruesome place in its day and watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Oddly, many of the tunes played were familiar ones from the Great American songbook, including several popularized by Frank Sinatra. There were no bagpipes. 

The Great American Songbook is defined as significant 20th-century American jazz standards, popular songs, and show tunes. We heard many that day and it was quite surprising!

We rode on the Underground (Tube) and managed not to get lost even in rush hours. We even lucked out with some sunshine; however, despite ☔️ nearly every day of our London stay.
UK friends, Andrew, Kath and ourselves
Our personal highlight was meeting UK residents, Kath and Andrew, who we first met over 10 years ago coincidentally when they were touring the US. Chatting at breakfast, we learned that we shared the same August wedding anniversary date. For over a decade, we've kept in contact through emails and cards. And, most recently have connected with phone calls using WhatsApp.
Fish & chips, jaunty cart, Blarney Castle, Irish coffee
We're currently on day 6 of a 9-day tour around Ireland. So far, we've been Blarney Castle (didn't kiss the stone), ridden in a jaunty cart, eaten fish and chips (mushy peas too) and Irish stew, enjoyed scones (delicious with butter, jam and clotted cream) and Grenville has hoisted a few pints of the national beverage, Guinness and also bought a tam o' shanter (photos after).
Touring through the Ring of Kerry on an overcast day
We've also taken a boat ride on one of Ireland's lakes, toured the Ring of Kerry, watched the crystal making process at Waterford, attended an Irish house part (music and step dancing) and toured a medieval museum. There's events still to come including an overnight stay in a castle hotel and a medieval banquet. Then it's onto a 3-day stay in Edinburgh and a meet-up with a fellow blogger living in Scotland before heading back to NH on November 1.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been enough time to read your recent posts and it will most likely definitely take time to catch up after we return home as there will be the necessary catch-ups for mail sorting, grocery shopping and laundry as well as posting more details on our travels.

Touring can be somewhat very exhausting, but we can rest up once home. For now, we're having a wonderful series of adventures. And, as has been said — wish you were here.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday Funnies

This shows that, besides humans and animals, — plants can have a bad hair day too.
Hope that your days are not as frazzled.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
We're in Ireland for ours

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A Bit of Color

This year, foliage colors in Mine Falls Park, Nashua, NH, wasn't as gloriously colorful as in previous years. That's what I found out during a walk there earlier this week.
Usually, fall colors are viewed from the ground up and looking at the trees. But looking down revealed some very colorful photo opps. There were many vibrant colors seen by looking in the waters of the canal that flows through the park.
The name Mine Falls dates from the 1700s, when low quality lead was supposedly mined from the island below the falls. In the early 1800s, the potential of the Nashua River to drive the wheels of industry was recognized. Workers used shovels and mules to dig the three-mile long canal that powered area mills, including Nashua Manufacturing Company. This mill building is now Clocktower Place, a residential apartment building and our current home.
Light created some beautiful patterns during my short ramble. I wanted to see some fall color since by the time we return from our UK trip (there now), most trees could be leaf-free. Autumn is such a lovely and colorful season, my favorite of all four seasons; winter comes next.
Typically, New England's foliage starts in early October and peaks towards the end of the month. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, this year the best leaf peeping opportunities will be in early October with many areas at or near peak fall color even by mid-October. 
However, this year's wet weather means that some colors are less vibrant than usual. This past summer was very rainy in New England, characterized by flash flooding in Vermont and the second-wettest July on record in Boston, MA. Nashua, NH, also had a lot of rainy days.
Too much rain affects leaf colors as it causes fungus on leaves, especially on sugar maples. This can cause trees to drop leaves early after turning brown. It's been so wet that the saps and the sugars are not all that concentrated in the leaves. The sugars are what create the leaves vibrant red colors. It's why many areas could have more pastel or muted leaf colors this year. 

Still, I found vibrant colors just by looking at the canal waters that flow through the park.
Luckily, the 325-acre Mine Falls Park is vehicle-free, aside from bicycles. The park includes forest, wetlands, and open fields; it is bordered on the North by the Nashua River and on the South by the Millpond and canal system.

Best of all, it's within walking distance of the mill apartments.

Monday, October 16, 2023

All Our Bags Are Packed

Well, almost.
We will be traveling again, not by car, but by plane (again).

As of tomorrow, Tuesday, our destination is across the pond to England (London), Ireland (various locations) and Scotland (Edinburgh). 

Wonder why this phrase is popular, we're crossing the North Atlantic Ocean not a pond. 

Now, you may be thinking (rightly so) that we're doing a lot of travel abroad in a short timeframe. We returned from Amalfi, Italy, barely 5 weeks ago.

That's right — it's a lot of travel, but then we have been taking road trips in New England and on the East coast for many years and did a cross-country trip. 

Before Italy, the last time we had traveled abroad by air was over 50 years ago. The last time we flew domestically was nearly 17 years ago for the birth of grandson Bobby in CA.

We decided it was time to make up for lost time and to enjoy more
 experiences as much as possible — if we could afford it and were well enough.

After the unexpected passing of two friends in recent months, the adage about time running short sadly is becoming closer and more true. 

Traveling has  been a learning experience and we've come a long way in the past few weeks.

Now, we can download and save boarding passes and successfully navigated three large airports (Boston, Dublin, Naples). We'll be going through at two of those again on this trip, plus adding a first-time ones in London, Amsterdam and Scotland.

The most fun has been learning to use the free app, WhatsApp to communicate by text and phone messages.

WhatsApp is a freeware, cross-platform, centralized instant messaging and voice-over-IP service owned by U.S. tech conglomerate Meta Platforms (Facebook). It lets users send text, voice and video messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other content.

Just to be clear, we remain newbies at using this app. This is in no way an endorsement for everyone. It worked very well for keeping in contact with fellow travelers as part of a smaller group. On this current trip, we'll only be exchanging messages with others also using the app.

That said, using WhatsApp to call friends and family from Italy was great — no need for an international calling plan — just a Wi-Fi connection and cell number on both ends. 

The previous trip to Amalfi trip was a small group tour coordinated by the owner of a wine store here in Nashua, NH and its September date made it a month-late anniversary gift to ourselves. Even if that event wasn't imminent, we were going.
This current trip, Shades of Ireland, is being coordinated by a New England company, Collette Tours (RI based) and promoted last spring at the senior center we belong to in Hudson NH. Other friends said they planned to go. After giving it due thought — at least 24 hours, we were going too. It's a(nother) gift to us for no special reason, the best kind.

Ireland is the main trip focus with eight days touring by motor coach stopping at destinations in various cities. Two two offered options were: a 4-day pre-extension to London and/or a 4-day post-extension to Edinburgh. Originally, we signed up only for Ireland, later adding the options to do it all. We would already be close to both countries even if it's not possible to see everything, this time.

Briefly, our tour starts in London with a 3-night stay. Then, a flight to Ireland and a motor coach tour with overnight stops in Dublin (2), Waterford City (1), Killarney (2), Limerick (2), Dublin (1). After Dublin, while others head home, we fly to Edinburgh for 3 nights.

What's as exciting as the trip is a meet-up with a couple we met 10 plus years ago and haven't seen since. Here's why: we met Kath and Andrew at breakfast while touring the Blue Ridge Mountains in VA on another anniversary trip — coincidentally it's also their anniversary 🥂 date. We've kept in contact through card exchanges, emails and photos, never met since.

They live in Derby but are visiting family in Watford and will take a train to London. We chatted this weekend via WhatsApp to firm up a meet date, this coming Thursday 😀.

WhatsApp is also how we communicated with fellow blogger, Christina (A Colourful Life). We're planning a met-up during the Edinburgh stay.

Other fellow bloggers who live in countries we will be visiting, please feel free to email.

I'm taking my notebook computer on the trip to try and post from some of the locations.
While I'll try to keep up with some of your recent posts, comments may take awhile.

Thanks, in advance, for the well travel wishes as all are much appreciated.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Friday Funnies

Today is Friday the 13th. 😱
It's also a special birthday 🎂

Fear of this is a phobia called triskaidekaphobia (fear or avoidance of the number 13). The good news is that this is the second and last 2023 Friday the 13th, the first was in January

Interestingly, this fear only dates to the late 1800s. By about 1911, it was prevalent enough to merit a name said to have been coined by psychiatrist and neurologist Isador Henry Coriat, one of the first American psychoanalysts. It was created from the Greek word for thirteen — triskaideka and adding phobia (fear of).

No matter the date, driving on roadways can be harrowing, not only because of other motorists, but also due to large objects in front of your car. Check out these ↓ examples.
Wood oops would you feel comfortable driving behind this truckload?
It's amazing to see how many cars fit on one of these transports, so close to the edge.
At least, seeing this car gives advance warning. Admittedly, the Oversize Load signage seemed funny on such a small vehicle.

Some Friday the 13th trivia, just because

A month has a Friday the 13th if and only if it begins on a Sunday. The date happens at least once every year, but occur up to three times in one year. 

Some believe the superstition comes from the Last Supper where the 13th guest, Judas, betrayed Jesus. Another Biblical belief is that Cain killed his brother, Abel, on Friday the 13th.

Some numerologists believe number 13 is unlucky because it follows number 12. They consider 12 a complete number — 12 months in a year, 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours on a clock, 12 days of Christmas.

It estimated that over 80 percent of high rise buildings avoid a 13th floor. Hospitals skip the 13th floor; many hotels skip having room 13; some airports even skip gate 13.

Fear sells. The popular Friday the 13th movie franchise has 12 films to date. The first film premiered in 1980, the last in 2009. Box office receipts worldwide have topped over $380 million. (I'm not quite sure, why horror sells so well.)

Symptoms of the number 13 fear can range from anxiety to panic attacks. Some folks skip work on this date, others will not drive or fly.

Director Alfred Hitchcock was born on April 13; film producer Richard Zanuck was born on December 13 and died on July 13; actor Christopher Plummer was born on Dec 13; American chef and writer Julia Child died on August 13.

Today is also a special 🎂 birthday in naval history — the U.S. Navy celebrates 248 years. On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress established the Continental Navy, a naval fleet of privateers. 

The very small force consisted of two armed vessels tasked with disrupting munition ships supplying the British Army in America. In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt designated October 13 as the Navy's official birthday. (As readers of this blog may or may not know, Patrick aka Grenville is a proud USN veteran.)

Enjoy Your Weekend
Hope all your luck is good

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Monumental Complex

It's the month for things eerie and haunting, perfect for describing our visit to one of the most famous and historical buildings in Amalfi, Italy.

That's because it includes an ancient burial ground and a crypt, more on these later.
Duomo di Amalfi
This structure is a striking blend of Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, and Baroque architecture with stripes, arches and mosaics. It's regarded as one of the great testaments to Roman Catholic architecture in the region
The medieval Amalfi Cathedral (Duomo di Amalfi; Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea) dominates the most famous square in the town (Piazza del Duomo). It's dedicated to the Apostle St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter and protector of Amalfi, whose remains are housed in the Crypt. 
Admission ticket to The Monumental Complex
Referred to as The Monumental Complex of St. Andrew, this huge complex also includes the Cathedral of Saint Andrea, the Basilica of the Crucifix, which houses the Diocesan Museum, and the Cloister of the Paradise.

History of the Cathedral
The cathedral was founded in 987 next to an ancient church dating from the 9th century and was built on the ruins of a Paleochristian church of the 6th century, now known as the Basilica of the Crucifix.  In the middle ages, the two churches were a single large complex with six naves. 

Cloister of the Paradise (Chiostro del Paradiso)
In 1266, the sixth nave was demolished to allow construction of the Cloister of the Paradise (Chiostro del Paradiso), an ancient cemetery of the nobility built between 1266 and 1268 to house the tombs of wealthy Amalfi citizens. Restored in 1908, it features a garden surrounded by Moorish arches and marble columns, along the perimeter are several chapels.
Frescoes in the Cloister of the Paradise
The medieval frescoes within the cloister were once part of the original cathedral’s interior decoration. They depict various religious scenes, including the lives of saints, biblical stories, and symbolic imagery. The frescoes later were transferred to the cloister for preservation as protection from weathering and deterioration. 
 Cathedral steps as depicted on a table
Access to the cathedral complex is gained by walking up 62 wide and steep steps. These steps distinguish the cathedral from most Italian churches, including the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The reason for the steep access is that the original church was built on a high hill overlooking the town to offer citizens shelter during times marked by pirate raids and attacks by rival city states. The staircase did not always exist in its present form, it was added in later years after threats had lessened.
 Main bronze doors of the Cathedral, circa 1057
The cathedral's main doors, made of medieval bronze, were cast in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1057, the gift of a wealthy Amalfi merchant, Pantaleo de Maurus Comite, who was working there. These are the earliest post-Roman manufactured doors in Italy. The doors consist of 28 panels that are arranged in three horizontal rows. Each depicts scenes from the life of Christ or St. Andrew and four central figures represent Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Andrew and St. Peter.  
 Basilica of the Crucifix altar
The Basilica of the Crucifix, the first church on the site, dates to 596 AD and this was the primary church in Amalfi until the current cathedral was built in 1100.

 Treasures in the Diocesan Museum
Inside the Basilica is the Diocesan Museum, set up in 1996, which exhibits precious treasures including a 13th century Norman-Angevin gold miter, an elegant 14th century French chalice and a silver altarpiece (above) which was formerly in the crypt.

Inside the Crypt of St. Andrew
No, it's not a scary experience, but an amazing beautiful one. A staircase in the Basilica of the Crucifix leads to the Crypt of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Amalfi (also Scotland and Russia).
 Interior of the Crypt of St. Andrew
According to tradition, St. Andrew went to Greece to announce the Gospel and was believed to have been martyred in the city of Patras. In 357, his remains were transferred to Constantinople and put in the new Church of the Holy Apostles built by Emperor Constantine. In 1206, during the Fourth Crusade, the remains were brought from Constantinople to Amalfi by Cardinal Peter of Capua. When the crypt was completed in 1208, the relics were turned over to the church.
Main Altar in the Crypt of St. Andrew
This is the large main altar topped by a large bronze statue of St. Andrew created in 1604 by Michelangelo Naccherino and patterned after Michelangelo’s sculpture, David, and flanked by marble statues representing St. Stephen and St. Lawrence. Behind it is a small, richly decorated case containing the back of the skull of St. Andrew (sorry didn't get a photo). The rest of the saint’s relics are buried below the altar.
Marble statues of  St. Stephen and St. Lawrence
On special days, it’s said that the saint's remains exude a liquid called, St. Andrew’s Manna. Despite the fact that this has been happening for 750 years and that many people have been anointed and believe it has healing qualities, the church doesn't recognize it as miraculous. 
Medieval frescoes on the crypt ceiling
The ceiling has magnificent frescoes that date to the 12th century. Some that represent the Passion of Christ are framed by rich, elegant, gilt stucco-work done by Vincenzo de Pino, an artist from nearby Scala. The crypt is also decorated with Baroque murals from the 1660s.

Interior of Amalfi Cathedral
Climbing stairs up from the crypt, leads to the amazingly beautiful cathedral, with its splendid Baroque interior that dates from the 18th century. 
Main altar in the cathedral
The high altar in the central nave is formed from the sarcophagus of the Archbishop Pietro Capuano (died 1214). Above the altar hangs a painting by 17th century italian artist Andrea dell'Asta, The Martyrdom of St. Andrew. The coffered (boxed) ceiling down the center aisle dates to 1702 and artwork here has paintings with scenes from the life of St. Andrew, including, the Crucifixion of the Apostle and another painting by Dell'Asta, 1710 Miracle of the Manna

The triumphal arch is held up by two Egyptian granite columns. The painting, The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew by Andrea dell’Asta, is above the altar. A wooden 13th century crucifix hangs in the liturgical area. Another crucifix, made of mother-of-pearl, was brought from the Holy Land and is located to the right of the back door. 
Side altars in the cathedral
Along the sides are several chapels in the Gothic and Renaissance styles. 

The Cathedral Bell Tower
The Romanesque-style bell tower of the Amalfi Cathedral is listed among the 20 most beautiful bell towers in Italy. 
Cathedral bell tower took over 100 years to build
The tower was started in 1180, and completed over 100 years later. It has four towers around a larger one, all decorated with brightly colored majolica tiles forming interlaced Gothic arches in an Arab-Norman style. During war times, the bell tower was re-purposed for defense.

According to legend, if you go up the cathedral stairs hand-in-hand with the one you love, you will never get married. Obviously, no one told this couple in advance or maybe they were already married.

The Duomo of Amalfi is open daily for mass. During the regular church service, entry is allowed without purchasing a ticket of admittance.

We bought our tickets. The cost of 4 euros was well worth the experience of visiting this beautiful structure, despite the hike up those stairs. 

Going down was much easier and the reward for that exercise was a gelato afterwards in the piazza. Yes, it was delicious especially on a very warm day.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Vehicular Vanity

Used to describe the urge some motorists have for personalized plates on their vehicles. For those unfamiliar with vanity plates, this applies to one which bears a unique collection of letters, numbers or both. Here's some examples.The car owner pays extra $ to have a choice of numbers, letters or an abbreviated form of a phrase, slogan, or abbreviation. Some motorists use personalized license plates to advertise a  business, charity interest and more within a state's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) guidelines.Vanity plates are issued by every U.S. state and the District of Columbia, and every Canadian province except Newfoundland and Labrador.

What state has the highest percentage of vanity plates?
According to the American Association of Vehicle Administrators, folks in Virginia own more vanity plates than any other state. One out of every six cars on Virginia highways has a personalized license plate. Virginia offers some of the cheapest vanity plates in the country, $10 annually compared to $50 in Maryland and $100 in Washington, D.C.

As former VA residents for 12 years, this was interesting as was finding out the percentage in our current state of NH is 13%. The cost is the town/city and state registration fees, plus $40 (annually for the Vanity Plate) plus an $8 plate fee (one-time). 

Here's some states with the most and least number of vanity plates:
Virginia - 19.1%
Illinois - 13.41%
Nevada - 12.7%
Montana - 9.8%
New Jersey - 6.8%
North Dakota - 6.5%
Wyoming - 2.94%
Texas - 0.5%

In neighboring Canada, Ontario has the highest vanity plate penetration rate (4.59%), followed by Saskatchewan (2.69%), Manitoba (1.96%), the Yukon (1.79%), and the Northwest Territories (1.75%). British Columbia had the lowest vanity plate penetration rate (0.59%) among those provinces that issue vanity plates. 

Here's a 2022 listing for New England states, including NH.
New England Vanity Plate numbers in 2022 (Internet source)
All U.S. states and Canadian provinces that issue them have a blue list of vanity plates which contains banned words, phrases, or letter/number combinations. The list is not definitive as the agent processing a vanity plate application can reject it, if deemed offensive, even if the phrase doesn't exactly match a banned word. State DMVs that receive complaints about offensive vanity plates can revoke a plate, even if it had been previously approved. 

Florida has banned plates such as PIMPALA. The state of New York bans plates with FDNY, NYPD and GOD. Many states reject certain wording if combinations are vulgar or offensive, including swear words, also plates with racial, sexual, ethnic and religious discriminations.

But, while a state licensing authority can deny or revoke what it considers offensive vanity plates, some motorists have successfully sued state governments on that issue under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. That happened several years ago, when a federal judge found California’s ban on offensive personalized license plates unconstitutional ruling that it constitutes viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment.

The New Hampshire DMV doesn't allow references to these subjects in any language, read forward, backward, by mirror image or phonetic spelling — intimate body parts, sexual or excretory acts, profanity or obscenity, violence, illegal activities, drugs or illegal intoxicants, gangs, racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation hatred or bigotry.

Maine, its neighboring New England State, had relaxed editorial standards in 2015 and allowed obscenities on customized plates, rejecting those of hate or violence, and welcoming most anything else. That changed in 2022, after the Maine Secretary of State enacted standards similar to NH and issued a public statement: The First Amendment protects your right to have any bumper sticker you want . . . but it doesn’t force the state to issue official registration plates that subject children to obscenity or profanity.
New England Vanity Plate numbers in 2022 (Internet source)
Full disclosure is that Grenville displays a vanity plate on his vehicle to reflect both his Navy service and ham radio license.

Your turn — Do you or have you ever had a vanity plate ?

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

It's Only a Test

We interrupt a planned post to let you know—there's no reason for concern.
Alerts you will hear or see today are only test messages.

Internet source
Today at 2:20 pm (ET) every U.S. TV, radio, and cell phone will air the unique electronic warning tone of an emergency alert for
 the Nationwide Emergency Alert Test. You'll know it's not an actual emergency as an explanation is included. 

Today's alert will air at the same time across every time zone starting at 2:20 pm ET The time varies countrywide; it will air once. If postponed due to severe weather or other significant events, the back-up test date is Wed, Oct. 11.

This alert system, which dates to the 1950s, is seen as a way to ensure that if something threatening was or were to happen that those in America could be quickly warned. Other countries have performed similar tests for alert systems.

There won't be any advance sound. It's only meant to be heard when issued so that people will pay attention. WHY? according to experts, playing it before could lead to alert fatigue, simply stated, folks can immune and won't listen. Sort of like crying wolf.

What to Know
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the test has two parts that will happen together testing both the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The purpose of the test is to ensure that systems continue to be an effective means of warning people about emergencies, especially on the national level.

FEMA and the FCC are coordinating with EAS participants that include wireless providers, emergency managers and others to prepare for the nationwide test, minimize confusion and maximize public safety value.

WEA Portion
The WEA portion will target cell phones. The message will display in English or Spanish depending on the device's language settings.This is the third nationwide test, but the second test to all cell devices. 
Internet source
Cell phones will get the warning as a tone, vibration and text message: 
THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System, No action is needed.

All wireless phones should receive the message once. ET cell towers will broadcast the test for about 30 minutes. WEA-compatible phones that are turned on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA will get the test message.

The message will be sent over the cellular broadcast system so if a phone is set to wi-fi or airplane mode, the alert won't be received.

EAS Portion
This part will also last a minute and will be conducted with the cooperation of radio and TV broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio, TV providers and wireline video providers. The EAS test portion will go out to TVs and radios. It will be the seventh nationwide EAS test. The message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages many are already have heard. 

Some Background
The first national emergency broadcasting system was created in 1951 so the U.S. Government could use radio networks to warn the nation of an enemy attack during the Cold War. It was refined and expanded in the 1950s-1960s with fears of nuclear attack. The first nationwide test of the most recent version of the Emergency Alert System was Nov. 9, 2011 at 2 pm (ET). 

Internet source
Mistakes have happened, triggering false alarms. The most recent incident was in 2018 when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency System mistakenly sent an alert notification warning: 

Ballistic Missile Threat Inbound To Hawaii. Seek Immediate Shelter. This is Not a Drill.

What happened? During a shift change, someone made a computer error—huge OOPS 😲. It took over a half hour to clarify the alert was caused by user error.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Pompeii: Still in Ruins

These words describe the ancient city of Pompeii. It's the largest continually excavated archeological site in the world and an amazing site, despite the hot and windy day of our visit.

We visited these ruins on our recent trip to the Amalfi coast joining several hundred others that day. The site annually draws millions of visitors. It's become one of Italy's most popular attractions to tour.

That's oddly macabre considering the devastation caused by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the city and its residents. Ongoing excavations have uncovered well-preserved buildings. Pompeii provides a backward look of a thriving and, for its time, very sophisticated Roman City—the main reason for its popularity.
Overall map of Pompeii ruins; we did not see everything on our visit
Our group tour, led by Anna, explored a relatively small part of this nearly 165-acre site of which, an estimated 109 acres have been excavated to date. There's some 2 miles of city walls and seven entrance gates to the city as well as main streets that crisscrossed the city. You could sense a solemness tredding on cobblestone streets walked on by Romans long ago. 
Our tour guide Anna, explained the city's history
Some Background
The large port city of Pompeii was located in southern Italy (Campania region) near the coast of the Bay of Naples. While Pompeii is known for its Roman ruins, unlike other towns in Campania, it was founded for the most part by Greek colonists who erected the earliest buildings.

Pompeii was built approximately 130 feet above sea level ironically on a coastal lava plateau created by earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Over time, it passed from Etruscans to Greeks to Samnites and eventually into Roman control. Early settlements date to the Eighth century BC when the Oscans, a people of central Italy, founded five villages in the area. The root of the word Pompeii is thought to be an Oscan word, pompe, for the number five.
There are always a lot of others touring Pompeii
By the turn of the first century AD, Pompeii, five miles from Mount Vesuvius, was a flourishing resort for distinguished Roman citizens. The city was impressive featuring elegant homes and villas filled with exquisite frescoes and sculptures; fountains lined the paved streets. Many structures were built with white ground-marble stucco. The city’s wealth derived from its rich volcanic soil and the region was a growing center for olives, grapes and other crops. Wine from Pompeii was enjoyed in some of Rome’s most fashionable houses.

When Did Mount Vesuvius Erupt?
According to historians, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, destroying a number of ancient Roman cities, including Pompeii and Herculaneum. Well-publicized recent discoveries have suggested that the volcano may have erupted in October.

Archeologists believe that residents of Pompeii didn't know that Mount Vesuvius was a volcano that would cause their eventual demise. The volcano had been dormant for over 800 years. Romans living in the area considered it an ordinary mountain. 
View of Mount Vesuvius from within Pompeii
Regardless of whatever month it erupted, the result was the same, Mount Vesuvius sent a mushroom cloud of ash, dust, and rocks 12 miles into the sky. Winds blew the cloud south toward the city. The ash settled on Pompeii like a heavy snow collapsing roofs and floors, but leaving walls intact. Most of the city's residents fled and sought shelter; some escaped to the South on foot, others fled to the West by sea. Most stayed along the southern Italian coast and resettled in the communities of Cumae, Naples, Ostia and Puteoli 

The next morning a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter buried the city under 30 feet of ash dealing a fatal blow to those who remained. Pompeii was completely submerged by a flow of lava.

More Destruction in WW II
In the fall of 1943, part of Operation Avalanche was to liberate southern Italy. Allied forces sought to dislodge German soldiers and disrupt resupply routes. As a result, important targeted roads, railways, bridges, and overpasses were located near Pompeii. Some of Pompeii's most famous monuments, including its museum, were accidentally damaged by American and British fighters. After the war, many were rebuilt. Ironically, the publicized collapse of some buildings years ago did not involve the original structures, but post-WW II rebuilds.

How Many Died?
Estimates are that between 10 to 12,000 people were living in Pompeii at the time of the eruption. The death toll has been placed at 2,000 (13% of the population). By all accounts, residents who stayed died in one of several ways. Toxic gases issuing from the volcano suffocated those who were downwind. Falling rocks and other debris caused homes to collapse, crushing inhabitants. The cloud of toxic gases and ash sweeping through the city would have killed people with its heat and ferocity alone. Some victims were frozen in suspended action.

After the eruption, people in nearby towns tried to locate Pompeii. Since it was a major port, they searched near the sea. However, the eruption had pushed the coastline out, filling in the harbor and Pompeii was now inland. Its location would remain hidden for over 1,500 years.

Forget about rebuilding the city, its damage was too great after it was buried in over 14 feet of ash. That same ash that sealed the city's fate has ensured its preservation. Everything remains where it was at the time of the disaster. Pompeii was stopped in time, preserved for centuries.

Historians and archeologists found more than crumbling buildings in the excavation of Pompeii, unearthing the lives of residents who favored art and color. Mosaics, frescoes and wooden panels found in the ruins decorated homes and many of these can be clearly seen today.
A thermopolium was the Roman equivalent of a snack bar
Amazingly, we learned that Pompeii was a city with fast food places. Back then, it was common for people to eat their midday meal at what were called thermopolia (cook shops). Food was cooked and sold at these commercial establishments, akin to modern snack bars. A counter that opened out onto the street held large openings for hot food and drinks. The shops were believed to have been used by visitors to the city, trades people or residents who did not have kitchens.
Original paved street in Pompeii that's best walked in comfortable shoes
Public drinking fountains are still visible on some of the main streets, which would have been lined with businesses. The town was surrounded by a wall with many gates and arched entrances that separated pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The wide paved streets did not have names or numbers; traffic was one-way on certain ones. Still visible on the streets are the large stepping stones that residents used to avoid walking in debris, rain and mud. 

There was a lot of buildings in Pompeii: homes, shops, temples, taverns, a pottery, baths, arena, public latrines, market hall, schools, water towers, flower nursery, basilica, bars, amphitheater, forum, theaters, temples. There were many bakeries attested to by baked bread excavated from many of theseAs a port city, there were also brothels, restaurants, and entertainment venues.  
Greek mythology figures depicted on an external wall
Stories were told in wall art and paintings so residents could learn about history and mythology. Depictions of everything from the legend of Hercules to Alexander the Great have been found in the ruins. Like other ancient civilizations, the Romans had many myths and legends. Mythology was a popular themes used for aesthetic and decorative purposes. It turned houses into status symbols for the wealthy who would commission grand wall frescoes. 
Members of our travel group and tour guide inside a Pompeii villa
Like other ancient civilizations, the Romans had many myths and legends. Mythology was a popular themes used for aesthetic and decorative purposes. It turned houses into status symbols for the wealthy who would commission grand wall frescoes.
Original floor in another Pompeii villa
The typical entrance of these residences was a small street doorway with a corridor that opened out into a large columned atrium where a rectangular pool of water open to the sky.
Wall frescoes in private homes survived after 2,000+ years
It was amazing to see details remaining in these frescoes after 2,000 years.The red color came from a pigment, cinnabar, commonly used in cities throughout Ancient Rome. Researchers have found the type used in Pompeii was unique in that it was ground finer then mixed with liquid to produce a more brilliant shade of red, a colorful testament to ancient artists.

Brothels Were Popular . . .
According to our guide and other sources, good times were enjoyed by ancient Romans who were known to have enjoyed entertainments and communal pleasures. The city was a popular vacation spot for high-class citizens. During its long-standing excavation, archeologists have uncovered over two dozen brothels.

Extravagances took the form of food, fashion and prostitutes. Prostitution was allowed socially and legally. The ruins of Pompeii revealed many buildings believed to have been brothels due to often erotic artwork on the walls. The imagery is thought to have represented a menu of services or instruction manuals for inexperienced visitors. Visiting brothels was believed to have been a popular activity for ancient Romans.

And Might Have Delayed Discovery
The brothels and related frescoes are thought to be a reason why Pompeii took so long to be fully discovered. In 1599, Domenico Fontana, an Italian architect was designing a new flow path for the Sarno River when he discovered the ruins. Surprisingly, he covered them up again.

Unproven theories are that Fontana found some of the erotic frescoes, which would have been shocking at the time, and performed a form of archaeological censorship. This view is supported by excavators who suspected that sites they were working on had been discovered earlier. 
Ruins in the large open Forum area; WW II caused more damage here
The archeological process of digging up the city began in 1748. Official excavations began to uncover the city began in 1784. The name of the town was found written on an inscription, Rei Publicae Pompeianoru, translated to the State of the Pompeians.
Archeologists unearthed perfectly formed shapes of human bodies, which indicated where they had died. In 1860, Pompeii’s director of excavations Giuseppe Fiorelli developed a way to bring them back to life by creating plaster casts out of the voids left by the decay of organic materials in the hardened ash and pumice. Fiorelli found voids in the volcanic ash layers that contained human remains and filled them with plaster to create body forms (death casts) of Pompeii citizens during their final moments, a technique still in use. Pompeii is still being excavated, but new casts are not being made as the plaster damages the fragile remains of the corpses. (Several existing casts were on display, but I opted not to take photos.)
Our tour group and guide
The site itself offers little by way of information about what you’re seeing. We received a site map and it was helpful that we had a knowledgeable guide. These ruins are so widespread that it can take several hours to a full day just to see highlights. The main sights are a distance away from one another.

Given the site's popularity, there's never a best time to go; there's always crowds. Exploring the city involves walking on uneven stone roads. There's limited shade on sunny days, and rainy days can turn the site very muddy. While we enjoyed the tour, it was a very warm day with abundant sun. Would we do a return visit? Most likely we would not.
Us in Pompeii on a very warm day

Unfortunately, Pompeii wasn’t the only city destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Also destroyed in 79 AD were the cities of Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabia.

Because its smalle, Herculaneum is considered easier to explore than Pompeii with fewer crowds. Excavation have shown that the city had villas, luxurious baths and marble work; many wealthy Romans had second homes here. 

This excavation might be a more manageable excursion if we revisit Italy, one day.